Will Hodgman

Premier of Tasmania

Liberal State Council Speech

Will Hodgman - Premier

06 October, 2019

HODGMAN Thank you. Thank you very much. Thanks Elise, and thank you all for being here on what is another stunning North West Coast day, as it was yesterday.

And when the State Director was delivering his address, I couldn’t help but gaze out over this beautiful court and just look out and see out of this magnificent venue, proudly brought to you with the support of the Tasmanian Liberal Government. But from it, I could see one of our mighty ships, one of our great Spirits, departing this beautiful port. And as Sam went on, I thought what an awesome sight it is, Tasmania and its ships. And as they turned in this tight river - it’s quite an awesome thing to see -, it’s not an easy thing to turn a ship like that around, and as Sam went on and as I watched the ship steam ahead (laughter) across Bass Strait, I thought to myself, that’s what we are, we aren’t the turnaround state anymore, we are powering ahead as a state, and I’m very proud to lead a Government that has certainly played its part, because under the Labor-Green Government of course, the ship was going backwards, but now it’s full steam ahead, and it’s certainly our clear mission to keep it that way.

And I want to acknowledge the Tasmanian Aboriginal community and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging, to my state and federal colleagues, to our brand-new President Rod Scurrah and our past President Geoff Page who has been the centre of attention this weekend. In fact, he even made a speech about himself last night (laughter) at the President’s cocktail party. But my sincere thanks to you, Geoff, for your time at the helm over what has been a very big seven years for our party. And to our Director Sam McQuestin who often does cop most of the flak - I think he secretly enjoys it - on the campaign front, but whose win most record certainly speaks for itself. And to the passionate and committed members of our great party who have been the force behind two Liberal victories in Tasmania in the past 20 months.

Last year, of course, in the state election, where for only the second time in our state’s history, we earned the trust of the Tasmanian people to govern in Majority for a second term. And then in May of this year, when Tasmania delivered the two seats necessary for us to form Majority Government, a Coalition Government, in Canberra, proving that our Division is as good as any, in fact it is the best in the country.

And of course it’s not just in this respect that Tasmania is firing, because we all know that this is the best place to live and to work and to raise a family, and now the rest of the world certainly knows that too.

And it’s not just evident in our strong-performing economy, our stunning economic performance, but also in our social and environmental progress. Tasmania is a much stronger, more confident place to be, and it’s no small thing that we can consistently say that Tasmania’s economy is the best in the country.

It certainly hasn’t always been that way, and it’s certainly not something that happens just by luck. Our businesses don’t suddenly switch from being the least confident in the country to being the most

confident, the most optimistic about their futures. They need the right conditions to grow and to prosper, to invest and to employ more Tasmanians.

And what we do as a Government is deliver a plan. And it’s a relatively straightforward one, as Elise has said. It’s about ensuring our economy remains strong and business conditions create the right environment for business growth, keeping our budget in good shape, so that we can spend more in our schools, in our hospitals, in the infrastructure that our growing state needs and into keeping our community safe, to keeping the cost of living and of doing business down and to ensure that we have the infrastructure to keep pace with the growth that’s occurring right across our state. And all the while, importantly, making sure that we are conscious about protecting all that’s special about our state, the place in which we live and our way of life. This is our plan. This is what we’ve taken to two elections that we’ve been trusted to deliver, and it is delivering results.

And I think we should always celebrate the fact that Tasmania is leading the way.

The fastest growing economy in the country. Our economic growth has topped every other state and the nation, and for the first time on over a quarter of a century, we’ve tripled the rate of growth in New South Wales.

Our population is growing at the fastest rate in many years, four times higher than what was happening under Labor and the Greens. There are now more reasons to stay than to go.

Investment is rising at the highest rate in the country. It’s increased by 66% since we came to Government in 2014. And this is because we have the most confident businesses in the country. And they are investing and they are growing, and there are around 1,600 more businesses operating in Tasmania now than when we came into Government in 2014.

And they are hiring more. There are 13,500 more Tasmanian in work than when we were elected. 8,500 with more women, 2,300 more young Tasmanians in work. The unemployment rate is lower in each region of our state and across every Local Government area.

It clearly hasn’t happened by chance, but it’s because our businesses not only say that they’re the most confident in the country, but also that our policies are the best in the country. We’ve created the best environment for business to grow, and our policies are rated as the most popular in the nation. We are a Government, we are a party that understand business and its importance to our state’s growth.

And we are delivering a massive infrastructure program that will invest into our schools, into our hospitals, into affordable housing, into the roads and rail that our state needs, and it will itself create 10,000 more jobs.

As the Prime Minister reminded us yesterday, we are the party that understands the importance of the economy and doing all we can to support our business sector to drive it and to employ more Tasmanians, and that’s certainly what we’re doing.

And so that we can invest more into health. 32% of our budget, our whole state budget, is now committed to health. Just a few years ago, it was only 25% of the budget. This shows the priority that we give to giving Tasmanian better healthcare. And what that means is that we’ve now got one thousand more professionals working within our health system, to give better healthcare to Tasmanians. More doctors, more nurses, more paramedics. One thousand more staff in our health system than when we came to Government.

Working with the Commonwealth Government, we have reduced elective surgery waiting lists. We’ve got them down to the lowest record levels in Tasmania. When we came into Government, they were the worst in the country.

We worked with the Federal Government to save the Mersey Hospital, we’re investing more into the Burnie Regional Hospital, into the LGH and, of course, in the coming months we will open the new Royal Hobart Hospital, a project that Labor talked about but could nor even get started. We’ll deliver it.

To deliver more affordable housing, we’re investing $200 million into an action plan that’s also driving what the Master Builders Association has described as the hottest construction market in the country. And our building sector has also recorded the highest growth in the nation. We’ve streamlined our building laws, we’ve extended support to what is the highest growing number of first home buyers in the country.

And I do want to also acknowledge the extraordinary commitment of the Federal Government in retiring our state’s historic housing debt and saving our state over $230 million in principal and interest repayments which we can now re-invest into increasing affordable housing supply across the state and to reducing homelessness.

Labor had 16 years to do that, including a time when there was a Tasmanian as Housing Minister, and they failed. It took a Liberal Government to deliver it.

We are proudly leading the nation in our response to the incidence of family violence and sexual violence in our community and our mission to eliminate it. And as Tasmania’s first Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence, I am so proud that it is our Government that has delivered nation-leading reforms and programs that are not only providing greater support to victims but have also reduced the number of high-risk incidents that are occurring in our state.

And it’s our party that truly believes that all our children should have access to the best-possible education, to give them their best shot in life. It is our Government that has extended access to education in our schools, which will all provide Years 11 and 12, and is supporting early years learning, extending support and access to education for our most disadvantaged communities.

And because we manage our budget well, we are able to employ hundreds more teachers, teacher’s assistants, school psychologists and school nurses to ensure that our kids are getting the best possible education, and this is what we are raising under a Liberal Government, whereas under the Labor Party, we had the lowest school retention rates in the country. They are now increasing, and our retention rates and TCE attainment has increased by 10% since 2014.

And we’re also leading the nation on apprenticeship starts. In fact, we’re the only state in the country that’s had an increase in apprenticeships over the last year, up 10%, while in fact across the country it went down.

We’re putting more police into our communities to keep them safe. Labor and the Greens reduced the number of police in our communities.

We are building a new $270-million prison in the North, and it’s expected to employ 250 and many more in its construction, but it will provide that increased capacity in our prison service that we need.

And to protect our communities from the threat of bushfire, we are delivering nation-leading fuel reduction burns that have reduced the fuel load and the fire risk to our state to the lowest level in 15 years.

One of our greatest success stories is Tasmania’s trade and tourism story.

While we’ve been in Government, our exports have grown at the fastest rate in the country, fastest on record and of any state in the nation. And under our new trade strategy, our export trade is 34% higher than when we were elected. We’re expanding market access, we’re building the capability and capacity of Tasmanian business to get their products to the world.

Rabobank has confirmed that our farmers are the most confident in the country. We’ve got a growth of agrifood production now again at around 10%, and we are investing into biosecurity, into research and innovation and productivity and new market development, and of course our nation-leading investment alongside the Federal Government into major water projects, which is turbocharging our agricultural production.

We’re also very committed though to ensuring that our farmers and our regional communities are supported when they’re experiencing difficulties through drought, and we’ve recently extended our assistance to them.

And as we’ve led the country in our export growth, so too we have in international tourism.

We’ve had the highest rate of growth of international tourists of any state in the country. And our strategy is not only about bringing more visitor to Tasmania, but making sure they see more of our state while they’re here and they spend more while they’re here. And it’s working, because we have smashed the target we set ourselves for visitor spend, and more of our visitors are getting out and seeing all that our state has to offer.

And again, our investments and our initiatives, alongside the Federal Government, are delivering these results, through increased marketing and promotion of our state and its precious brand like never before, investing into the world’s best bushwalks and mountain biking trails, into iconic destinations like Cradle Mountain and at Freycinet and our magnificent parks.

We will deliver an international airport for Tasmania that will not only bring in more tourists, but also allow us to export more freight to the rest of the world and cement our position as the nation’s gateway to Antarctica and the Southern Oceans.

And we will put the next-generation Spirits on this river and across Bass Strait, increasing capacity for passengers and freight. And I very much look forward to gazing out of this window again at those ships.

And we’ve extended the Freight Equalisation Scheme, which of course turbocharged our exports.

We’re investing in road networks here on the Coast right down the Midland Highway to what will be our new Bridgewater Bridge.

We’re extending our rail network, and all this does is make our road and rail networks more efficient and more productive to support our economic growth.

And it’s only possible because we have a strong economy and a budget back on track.

And I’ve always said, and strongly believe, that the best way we can deliver results for the state is by working together with the Commonwealth Government. By working with them and not fighting against them, as Labor would have us do, we will always fight hard for our state and put Tasmania’s interests

first. But that includes working cooperatively with the Federal Government to deliver more for our state, and our track record shows we are doing that.

And perhaps no more so than in the area of renewable energy. We are, as the Prime Minister confirmed, progressing with pace our plans for renewable energy that will blow your socks off. This is massive in its scale and will be unprecedented in its impact on our state. Including here, of course, in the beautiful North West Coast which is one of Australia’s most productive renewable energy zones. With the Morrison Government, we are powering ahead with our plans to deliver the nation-building project Marinus, the second interconnector, and also the Battery of the Nation, which is the pumped hydro schemes, for Tasmania to be the renewable energy powerhouse of the nation.

In fact, I’m delighted to be able to confirm that the business case is now even stronger, with our experts’ analysis confirming that we can advance the interconnection with far more capacity than previously anticipated. And also Hydro Tas, their analysis has confirmed that we can significantly increase our pumped hydro storage capacity by about 35% more megawatts of capacity. So, that will fuel the Battery of the Nation, which is now a lot bigger.

And, importantly, what all that means is that it’s estimated to inject around $6.5 billion into our economy and support around 2,400 more jobs in our state. This is once in a generation, nation-leading and state-building infrastructure that is happening under our Governments here and nationally.

And it will allow us to continue to deliver reliable and secure energy and keep power prices down. While they’ve increased, I should say, by 65% under Labor and the Greens, we’ve been able to keep them down, and they’re amongst the lowest regulated electricity prices in the country. And we capped price increases and also extended the commercial industrial rebates.

This is happening under our Government, and it is a massive undertaking, one that will not only deliver massive economic benefits for our state, but also extraordinary environmental benefits.

And on the issue of the environment and climate change, this is an important issue for our community. And I think it’s important that we as a political party and as a Government do more to tell Tasmanians about what we are doing about our environment and climate change, because under our Government, we are the nation’s renewable energy state. Under our Government, we are generating around 25% of the nation’s renewable power. We are on track to be 100% self-sufficient in renewable energy by 2022 (applause).

We were the first state in this country to have zero net emissions. We did that in 2016. Tasmania has the lowest per capita emissions of all states and territories and one of the lowest emitters of carbon dioxide on the planet.

This hasn’t happened by accident. We have a climate action policy and strategies to deliver practical measures to support business and households to improve efficiencies and reduce emissions, an action plan that was delivered by this Government. These are the facts, and we need to work harder for them to be heard.

And as proud as I am of our record, I’m so proud of our team. For only the second time in our state’s history, we were elected to form a Majority Government twice. To twice earn the trust of the Tasmanian people, the majority of Tasmanians, to keep on with the job that we’d started, to deliver our policies, to take Tasmania to the next level and to provide the certainty and the stability that fosters confidence in our community that our people so richly want.

And from Day One, I have been absolutely determined to deliver that, no matter what, because that’s what Tasmanians wanted. Stability and certainty in our political environment to foster and nurture further growth. Of course it is not easy and there are always challenges, but from Day One I was determined for us to provide the stability that Tasmanians wanted from us, because we were elected by a majority of Tasmanians to be and to deliver as a Majority Government. And I do that with the very strong support of my team, the best in the country. And my sincere thanks to all, all that you do to make our Government be the best it can for the Tasmanians we serve.

And, I want to acknowledge Jacquie who, as I speak, is recovering from what could be world-first surgery, and I know we all send her our love and very best wishes for a speedy recovery, and she tells me she is doing well (applause).

And to Rene and to Adam, who are here today, to thank for their service to our Government and to our state. This is a brutal business, and I am always so acutely aware of the impact that that can have on our families. So, to yours, we also send our heartfelt thanks (applause).

And I’m proud too that our party, as well as our state, continues to grow.

Three years ago, at this state conference, I outlined what I thought we needed to do to make our great party even greater, and that was to increase the participation of women in our party and in our Parliament, so that it would better reflect the community that we seek to represent. And that included setting a target of 50% representation in our Parliament by 2022, and our party.

Well, we have increased our efforts, and I’m delighted we’ve reached 40% of women in our state team and it is our party, it’s the Liberal Party, that has the diversity, the greatest gender balance in our Parliament. That is a fact.

Now, you know it’s not my practice to spend too much time worrying about the Labor Party, but their recent performance could not possibly pass without an honourable mention, because (laughter) they too, in their own way, have been making history. They actually gave up a seat of their own. Through internal divisions that got in the way, they are now one fewer seat in our Parliament and have one less voice.

They’re a party whose Leader claimed at their recent state conference that they’ve suddenly apparently realised that the economy’s important (laughter). But you can’t seriously believe it, because it was under them that our economy sunk into recession and that 10,000 jobs were lost and Tasmanian businesses were the least confident in the country. And that of course happened while they were in Government with the Greens.

And despite also pretending now that they apparently won’t stand with the Greens, on the very first day at the very first vote in our Parliament after the Leader of the Opposition said they would no longer do that, they again voted with the Greens. And they are voting with the Greens more often than not when we vote in our Parliament. You seriously cannot trust them. You certainly can’t take them on their word, nor can you treat them seriously on something as important as our budget or our state’s economy, ‘cause they were a Government, a Labor-Green Government, that left us deficits.

And we’ve worked very hard to get our budget back into the black, four surpluses in a row, ahead of schedule, and more to come. And despite some economic headwinds, a reduction in our GST as our economy grows, increased demand for services, the bushfires, we have again delivered the surpluses, and it doesn’t happen by chance. You’ve got to manage your finances well, you need to exercise discipline and make sure that we as a Government, like all households, live within its means, and we have.

And as part of that, and our disciplined management, we will apply an efficiency dividend across Government, a modest efficiency dividend of about half of one percent. This means about saving fifty cents out of every one hundred dollars that Government spends, and we’ll do it in a way that does not impact on frontline services. But what it will do is ensure that we can keep our budget in good shape, and so we can have that money to invest more into those essential services.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, my sincere thanks again for your support.

Our mission has always been to give Tasmanians a Government that they can rely on, that they can trust to deliver to make our state a better place to be, which it undoubtedly is now, compared to when we came into Government.

I do believe that Tasmanians are prouder and more confident about this state in which we all live.

There is, of course, so much more to do, and we’re just getting on with the job of doing it.

Thank you.